NATWEST is to offer specialist one‐to‐one support to all new entrants entering the Welsh farming sector.
The new programme will see bank customers entering the industry given a face‐to‐face relationship manager, regardless of scale. Non‐NatWest customers will be offered up to three years of free mentoring from a sector specialist as they establish their business.
The programme, which was announced at the Royal Welsh Show, is expected to help around 40 new businesses in Wales each year and address some of the issues raised in a survey commissioned by the bank in January.
Harvesting the Future for Young Farmers, a survey of more than 500 young and potential new entrant farmers based in Britain, highlighted key concerns, including:
• ‘Dead man’s shoes’ syndrome ‐ limited succession opportunities, often combined with the complexity of family dynamics and intergenerational issues, pose a significant challenge for young people seeking a career in farming.
• Inability to embrace new farming models ‐ despite 20 per cent of young farmers surveyed stating that they are looking for new ways to access farming such as share farming, with ever larger farms across the UK, this is proving difficult.
• Access to funding and varying levels of business skills ‐ highlighted as obstacles to investment and growth opportunities, with 36 per cent of survey respondents saying they did not have access to sufficient advice and resources to develop their businesses.
The research findings also show that young farmers hold huge economic potential and are driving significant enterprise trends in the agricultural sector. According to the report, almost 20,000 new diversification projects could be delivered by young farmers, generating £11,900 in additional income per farm.
Through this new programme, NatWest will offer face‐to‐face banking support through our team of relationship managers to new entrants for three years.
LONG‐STANDING RELATIONSHIP: From left, Aled Evans with NatWest’s Rob Good and Iwan Evans, who are part of the scheme.
NatWest’s network of Business Growth Enablers will also act as a hub bringing external experts and new entrants together to provide support through education, day to day advice, strategic planning and thought leadership.
It is hoped the provision of specialist support will also lead to earlier identification of funding opportunities from external parties for new entrants.
Any non‐NatWest banked new entrants will be able to access mentoring through the bank’s commercial banking agricultural relationship team.
CEO for commercial and private banking for NatWest, Alison Rose said: “Farming is vital to the Welsh economy and across government, support bodies and customers the sentiment is clear ‐we must make entry to agriculture easier.
“Many mainstream banks operating in the sector have face to face relationship criteria which are outwith the scope of most young farmers. This means many do not have access to specialised relationship managers who understand the sector and can use their experience to guide their decision making.
“This programme, which will provide support for all new entrants in Wales, aims to address these issues. Through our Business Growth Enablers and using our networks and relationships we can
create environments where knowledge and ideas can be shared and collective support can be fostered.
“Bringing in a younger generation will help stimulate new ideas and implement change in an industry that has been dominated by tradition. It is crucial that we do this.”
According to Defra the percentage of farmers under the age of 45 in the UK had fallen to just 13 per cent in 2015, down from 18 per cent in 2003.
This new programme will be open to new entrants to farming or agriculture who are under the age of 40 and who are not looking to expand a parent farm or amend an existing partnership.
NatWest has 17 specialist agriculture relationship managers operating across Wales and in 2016 lent £50 million to the sector here.
Last year we also introduced the Basic Payment Scheme bridging facility to help farmers affected by Single Farm Payment delays. FUW younger voice for farming committee chairman Darren Williams welcomed the initiative. He said:
“Recognising how much farming matters to our rural economy is one step forward and it is great to see NatWest offering specialist and mentoring support for young people entering the agriculture industry.
“If we want to see agriculture thriving in years to come, then we have to provide a support structure and entry route for the next generation of farmers and remove the barriers they currently face.”
For brothers Aled and Iwan Evans investing in technology is important in building up their Carmarthen farm, making it fit for the future.
The farm used to belong to their grandparents, and when the pair took it on five years ago it had no infrastructure for modern farming. They now have 200 head of cattle and about 200 breeding ewes, and last year they invested £45,000 in a state‐of‐the‐art calf shed.
“It’s one of the first purpose‐built calf sheds in the UK to have climate control,” said Aled, who lives on the farm and works there full‐time.
“We travelled to Holland to see them in action, and then worked with our NatWest relationship manager Rob Good to put funding in place for our own shed.
“We are aggressive in our growth plans and quite often opportunities come up which need to be seized and acted upon quickly.
The beauty of having a long‐standing relationship with Rob is that he knows the business well and we can call him with an idea and he can give us his view on whether he can support us very quickly. If
your only contact is with a call centre then you haven’t got that head start.
“The industry faces a volatile future with Brexit on the horizon, and so having support from an expert like Rob is going to become even more valuable. Over the next five to ten years farmers will either need to embrace change or they will go out of business.”
Rob said: “While Aled and Iwan come from a farming family there are still challenges when embarking on your own career in agriculture. “Young farmers often encounter problems with embracing new ways of working, whether it’s because of access to funding or because they simply don’t know where to turn for guidance. “Having a dedicated relationship manager means that you have access to a sector expert who has up‐to‐date industry knowledge and key contacts, and who will quickly get to know your business very well.
“It’s rewarding working with new farmers like Aled and Iwan who are forward‐thinking and enthusiastic about their future.”